Walkinshaw Andretti United’s long period on the road is proving to be the making of the team, says Bruce Stewart.
WAU notched up two milestones last weekend at The Bend when Chaz Mostert achieved his first pole for the Clayton squad and rookie Bryce Fullwood bagged a maiden Virgin Australia Supercars Championship podium.
Mostert sits fifth in the championship and is only 53 points behind his former Tickford team-mate Cameron Waters, who occupies third, having himself been as high as third before the last event.
The former factory Holden team’s resurgence is unfolding during a season in which it will have been on the road for 80 percent of races by the time the campaign is over.
According to Stewart, WAU’s Team Principal, the need to flee Victoria in early-July and stay away until October’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is over has, in some regards, been a positive for his crew.
“I’m really happy with how we’re doing it. It is difficult, and every one of our team has lifted through pretty trying conditions, especially in Melbourne, and it’s testament to our team, I think,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“Coming into this, if you said we were going to be on the road for over a hundred days from the start of when everyone jumped across the border, you would think that was a kind of a test that was either going to make or break your team.
“I’m happy to say, at the moment, it feels like it’s really making and building our team. Our team are bonding really well and the people who are not on the road are working really hard to maintain that momentum, which is really cool.”
Mostert’s pole ahead of Race 25 of the season is part of a run of six top three qualifying performances and a further two top fives in the last 10.
While he faded in all three races due to the burden placed on tyres by The Bend’s International Circuit layout, which is not in play this coming weekend, Stewart is buoyed by his one-lap pace.
Asked if the drop-off in race pace was a track-specific issue, Stewart said, “It felt like that. Certainly he’d been really successful in the racing side as well at Townsville, and Tailem Bend caught a few out on a couple of races.
“His qualifying is really, really pleasing because, the past few years, it’s been a bugbear for our team, and it’s really awesome to see one-lap pace.
“We’ve now just got to make sure that we can maximise the result through the journey, no matter what the deg(radation) is and no matter what the racing position.”
Both WAU cars will be in action when Supercars Championship action kicks off again at The Bend this morning with Rookie Practice.
Fullwood will drive the #2 ZB Commodore while his Bathurst 1000 co-driver, Kurt Kostecki, will get laps in Mostert’s #25 machine when the 20-minute hit-out gets underway at 09:00 local time/09:30 AEST.